I’ve often asserted that blogging is a social process, that the mere publishing, caterwauling, prettying up templates, is only a piece of it– blogging is also participating in other people’s blogs.
There is nothing that will energize a budding blogger more than getting feedback, and the impact is even larger when it comes from someone distant or unknown. It validates (or invalidates, or infuriates) a blogger’s writing. It says that you are not just spewing words out into the ether, that they land somewhere. And it connects us.
My favorite example described by Matthew Kirschenbaum as “Comment Blogging” he describes the actions of FranÃ§ois Lachance who lacks a published blog, but instead blogs in the comments space of other blogs:
I can predict the range of theoretical positions such a “blog” (should we call it a comment blog?) might be said to occupy: this is blogging in the margins, distributed blogging at the interstices of the discourse network. FranÃ§ois appears on no one’s blogroll, his entries are not tracked by blogdex or weblogs.com or similar sites. He is an utter non-entity in the standard ecological renderings of the blogosphere, yet he unquestionably has a presence “here.”
Consider my friend and colleague Brian Lamb’s blog request for suggestions to presentation he had to deliver and how the network delivers the goods:
You never know what might happen when you make a blanket appeal for feedback, such as I did in the run-up to the blogs and wikis talk tomorrow night at the VPL. People are busy, and I asked some deceptively difficult questions.
I’m simply overwhelmed by the responses I’ve gotten back. Within minutes I got a trackback from Germany (wish I’d paid a bit more attention in my high school classes). Christopher Sessums contributed some notes toward what became a pretty groovy wiki-based presentation of his own, demonstrating how to be tremendously supportive of others while working to achieve one’s own objectives. Vicki Davis pointed to an array of wonderful multimedia she is using with her students, it’s easy to see why this work was named Wikispace of the month last December.
I’ve been fortunate in 2.5 years of blogging to get some attention/linkage from others, but cannot recall a post that got more than 10, pretty paltry when you see the 5, 100+ comment streams some Ã¼ber bloggers get. Also, I meet a lot of people in conferences and emails who tell me they “read/like” CogDogBlog (though I can never remember seeing any comments- they are silent blog consumers, which I need to say up front- there is nothing wrong with lurking).
So I decided to fish around my database tables to see what the numbers said. My copy of Spam Karma gives some basic stats- going back to January 1, 2005 before I even implemented SK2, it has caught 1438 spam messages, and I moderated another 78 into the pile, and that there are 670 legitimate comments.
To get a grasp on the unique commenters, I did a quick mySQL query:
SELECT comment_author, count(*) as acnt FROM `wp_comments`
WHERE comment_date > '2005-01-01'
GROUP by comment_author
ORDER BY acnt DESC
which says find me all comment authors since January 1, 2005, tell me how many comments they made, and list them in order of most commenting authors.
So the results give me 380 unique commenters (well if they did use the same name in the comment form), which actually is quite a lot. I don’t even know 380 people, you’d have to go down an order of magnitude and divide again by 5 or so. So thanks to my top commenters:
D’Arcy Norman 76
Alan Levine 32
Cheryl Colan 26
Scott Leslie 21
Stephen Downes 21
Bruce Landon’s Weblog for Students 17
Abject Learning 14
Gulp- that’s me doing a lot of commenting back, 146 instances, no wonder I feel like I am not getting any work done!
It’s a little bit worse on our MCLI iForum– a print+web publication from our office we turned into web-only and publish with WordPress. One of the added benefits (we hoped) was an ability for readers, and mainly our internal Maricopa audience, to “interact” with the articles. We ended most articles with some open ended questions, yet 2 months after publishing there are 8 legitimate comments (the last one more than a month ago), and 197 spam attempts caught by SK2. We got individual phone calls, emails, and verbal positive responses, but there is some unseen inertial force keeping our folks from making public comments (and they can choose anonymity with a fake name).
We are rather stumped by this…. so what is it that prevents readers from interacting with blogs? Does it only happen when there are points provided by a teacher? I know not everything needs a comment, and I certainly do not post comments on everything I read.
Commeenting- never underestimate its power, reach, and affect (unless you are a spammer, die a foul fetid death you wastes of human flesh!)